Mathematical Proof That Your Senator Is Miserable

If you've ever thought your senator was a crotchety old curmudgeon, well, they might be: hey, it's a stressful job. But now, thanks to facial recognition software, a collection of senator photographs and some coding, you can tell exactly how smiley they are.

Dan Nguyen, a developer and journalist at ProPublica, has hacked together some software tools with a database of all our current senators' mugshots to see who's the smiliest, and who's the most miserable.


He used Sunlight Labs' Congress API and The New York Times' Congress API to gather the images, and then used's facial detection to break them down according to "face coordinates". Those face coordinates were then used to measure how smiley each senator was. Aww.

So, what do the result looks like? Check through the gallery above, where Nguyen has complied the smiliest, frowniest and, perhaps most amusingly, the most ambiguous smilers.

In terms of interpretation, Hutchison looks startled, Coons looks like I just told him I slept with his daughter, Bingaman looks confused, and McCain, well, McCain still looks creepy. All extremely valuable civic insight.

But silliness aside, it's a neat example of what can be done with a few APIs, a little bid of coding and a fun idea. You can even download the code, here. Good work, Dan. [Dan Ngyuen via The Atlantic; Images: Dan Nguyen, using images provided by Sunlight Labs' Congress API, and Arkansas Senate.]


Share This Story